G2 Carlos fell victim to his mistake but why does esports ignore the real villains?
In his latest opinion piece, Dexerto’s Editor-at-Large Richard Lewis explains how the hypocrisy in esports has led to one of the industry’s biggest names being exiled.
By now, everyone in esports will have heard about Carlos Rodríguez standing down as CEO of G2 Esports, one of the most successful esports organizations and one he built from the ground up. This came after a series of PR disasters that all began with the baffling decision to tweet footage of him seemingly at an afterparty with Andrew Tate and ended with a hamfisted apology and suspension.
The timing made the actions even more stupefying. G2 had just announced an all-women’s League of Legends team and their status to be approved as a partner for Riot Games upcoming Valorant league was in the air. As errors of judgment go, it was certainly worthy of a pound of flesh, but in the end we got every part of the man and there is no consensus. For some, we protected the industry from a harmful invasion; for others, we lost one of esports greatest contributors in recent years. Maybe both are true.
If you know Carlos, as I do, his motivations for doing this are clear enough. The Tate brothers are topical for all the wrong reasons, many of which I will assume Carlos isn’t even aware of. After all, given that they never shut the fuck up talking about themselves and are all over the internet, being expected to know everything about what they said is unreasonable. My further assumption would be he simply knew they are controversial and a hot topic, so he “snuck” them into a video while making a relatively benign statement about his team’s achievements. This is classic Carlos and by extension, it’s one of the reasons they are successful, that element of risk, that edge, something that separates the G2 brand from the rest of the crowd.
Of course this time it was misguided for reasons we all know. What this article isn’t going to be is a referendum on Tate’s content or who he is as a person. Spare me the jaw-breaking yawn you’ll inflict as you type “well of course he’d defend Tate” without even reading the article. I already made my views known in a two-hour podcast as this story unfolded and accurately predicted where it would end up. What the article will be is a long look at the hypocrisy of going after one of our own to the degree he leaves the industry entirely while the same people pushing for that take money from companies and regimes that discriminate against and harm women.
Carlos fucked up spectacularly. Of that there can be no doubt. Not only did he seemingly proudly associate the Tate’s with his brand — the tweet was specifically about G2 — he then referred to them as friends and doubled down on him being allowed to party with whoever he wants, regardless of public perceptions. He certainly can and no doubt will. However, once you open any company you have built to the sponsors, investors, and partners, you forfeit the right of control. All it takes is a few of these underwriters to pull out and everything you’ve built turns to shit before your eyes.
And believe me: this is absolutely what happened. The American-driven optics culture, fueled by the fugazi moral compass of Twitter, operates in a very straightforward fashion. It’s not the crime you are punished for but rather it’s for getting caught by enough people at once. This is why corporations that use child labor or materials harvested by workers in concentration camps get to pose about how concerned they are with the social issues of the day. This paradigm left Carlos with two options – stay at G2 and lose employees, sponsors and investors, all the while being hammered in public as statement after statement condemning him was issued or serve his own head up on a platter, the decent if the disproportionate thing to do.
So yes, again, Carlos fucked up and the system we’ve built for ourselves only lets it pan out this way. If he is a victim, then he’s a victim of his own hubris, which makes the fall especially enjoyable for those who have never scaled the heights. It’s a Greek play for the digital generation. My sympathies certainly lie with those who were affected through no fault of their own: for example, G2’s future Valorant players and staff, whose futures were stamped out over something they didn’t even know about let alone co-sign. There was also an absolute brutal lack of care about collateral damage in the aftermath of the first domino being flicked. The ultimate responsibility for sure lies with Carlos, but you have to think that without the sound and the fury, there was no way Riot was going to rescind the offer of a spot in their upcoming Valorant league, a very costly penalty. On top of that, rumors circulated about this potentially spilling over to their League of Legends division as well, although these were denied by Riot representatives. It was academic really, because it was only going to take one of these things to make his position untenable.
Let’s take a sober review of the crime Carlos committed that so inspired everyone to push for him to lose everything he spent the last decade building. He filmed himself standing next to a man who has expressed misogynistic views on the internet and then referred to him as a friend. He didn’t repeat the views. He didn’t endorse the views. He didn’t direct people to that individual’s content. He didn’t pay money to that individual nor take money from him. If that is the bar for your outrage then I have to ask where you’ve been hiding that energy as esports continues to be controlled and shaped by bad actors. How many of the Twitter heroes taking a stand over Carlos had something to say about the many other malevolent forces already present in our space? You won’t need fingers and toes to count them.
So let’s lay the cards on the table and actually explain the proportionality of the outrage aimed at Carlos. Yes, he did stand next to the bad man and he did call him a friend while representing his brand. Fair. But the reason everyone really lined up for the cyberstoning is twofold. The first is that he doesn’t play the standard game of pandering to people publicly. He’s arrogant, brash, and very, very vocal about his accomplishments. People hate this. There’s no bigger crime on the internet than being outspoken because it reminds those who lack the courage to be that way of their own failing. Second, he doesn’t sign the checks of the people who chose to make the most noise, which certainly makes the selective outrage financially convenient.
What other conclusions are there to arrive at given the stony silence about the greater evils that have taken over esports? How can someone rant about how much they hate misogyny and then get on the next plane to Riyadh to help sportswash for a tyrannical regime? How can you say nothing about the forced sterilization of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese government and then represent companies who literally partner with them to make money? If these enemies seem monolith could you at least manage the decency to not work with the companies that have had to comply with legal settlements for their own systemic sexist practices and abuse of women in their workplaces? Evidently not.
Let’s focus on that last one since this is largely a League of Legends and Valorant story. In an industry that often postures about doing the right thing, there is no greater demonstration of grace than the one Riot and their orbiters will bestow upon themselves. People have known about the abusive practices of that company for years and some have openly warned people about them for the same amount of time only to be called a liar or biased by those incentivized to run interference. Then in 2018, it all came tumbling out of the woodwork as a bombshell article by Kotaku and subsequent lawsuits resulted in a $100 million settlement from Riot Games and a series of pledges to “do better.”
For Riot apologists, the settlement is viewed as the end of the story, no need to remember any of the candid details. In the minds of the esports hypocrite, it is summarised as “Riot did bad but then Riot did good.” “No need to delve into it any further,” they tell themselves before typing up a screed about how there’s so much more work to do to achieve gender equality. Yet the devil is in the details because while that settlement was indeed achieved, how we got there shows just how rotten Riot’s culture is. Then consider, despite what you’re about to read, there wasn’t a single member of Riot’s executives fired for any of this. Here’s a recap of some of the specific allegations from the original complaint filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH):
- “There are unsolicited and unwelcome pictures of male genitalia shown to employees from their bosses or colleagues;
- A female employee discovered an email chain discussing what it would be like to “penetrate her,” in which a colleague added she would be a good target to sleep with and not call again;
- Another female employee recalled a colleague once informed her that she was on a list getting passed around by senior leaders detailing who they would sleep with;
- Two former employees said they felt pressure to leave Riot Games after making their concerns about gender discrimination known. One former female employee said that Riot Games “bro culture” is more pronounced behind closed doors;
- Men telling jokes or emails circulating with jokes or pictures that are intended to demean women’s intellect or are sexually explicit;
- Telling stories on a daily basis about alcohol consumption and sexual conquests from the night or the preceding weekend;
- Use of bodies to simulate humping another person;
- A former male employee was allowed to remain in a position of leadership despite regularly making sexual comments in the workplace and drugging and raping another Riot Games employee.”
It isn’t even hyperbolic to say that if Andrew Tate created a video games company tomorrow, its executives would end up sounding a lot like Riot’s. People must have forgotten the time that during an offsite meeting about recruitment, the company’s co-founder Brandon Beck was sure to include a rape joke reminding his mostly male audience that “no doesn’t necessarily mean no.” Far from being a faux pas, the statement was deemed so incisive it was then added to a company slide show for distribution to all who couldn’t make it to the event.
Riot were so committed to “improving” their culture that California’s DFEH accused them of misleading their own employees about their rights to speak to them about any abuse they may have suffered. This was then followed up by more allegations they colluded with the plaintiff’s counsel in order to minimize any potential settlement they had to pay out hoping to keep it to a derisory $10 million.
There are pages of this stuff, and incredibly it appears to have been almost completely forgiven. So many of the people who called for Carlos’s head and expressed their distaste towards him work with the company that did all this without a second thought. They promote them and their products. They take their money and keep their secrets. They airbrush history by saying “they’re really working to change” without being able to explain how everyone responsible got to keep their jobs. Then you realize that when it comes to the world of ethics and principles these people are all tourists. Their primary allegiance is to themselves and with Riot being not only a huge source of revenue for them and their ilk, but also one of the pettiest and most capricious companies in the history of games development, of course they’d much rather focus on anyone else’s sins.
It’s not just those who carry water for Riot who are guilty of hypocrisy. Some examples were truly staggering. Take this tweet from Esports.gg, who wasted no time capitalizing on the situation and making sure they placed themselves on that right side of history. In reality, their parent company, eFuse, hired someone who had left a previous job as a woman’s basketball coach after accusations of sexual harassment. They stood by him until the furor started to hurt their bottom line, accepting his resignation a few weeks later. Kind of lost the moral high ground there, guys.
Maybe the worst offender in this grand hypocrisy is G2 itself. “Last night we failed you,” read the initial tweet from G2 Esports when they announced Carlos’s suspension. “The actions of our CEO spoke a language in stark contrast with the values and the culture G2 lives by and strives for. And for that we apologize.” Their sponsors have plenty of skeletons rattling around in their closet, including benefitting from the of use child labor.
Worth noting this same board approved their team’s attendance at Saudi Arabian esports events on two occasions. Carlos was also a speaker at the ominously-titled Next World Forum in Riyadh alongside such greats as Nadhmi Al Nasr from NEOM, a man who, according to the Wall Street Journal, threatened to shoot his employees at an emergency meeting. Want to bet Carlos was appearing alongside a misogynist or two there?
Point this out to them and you’ll hear the word “whataboutism” a lot. This is a term becoming increasingly popular in online discourse and that is amusingly often being used in the manner the word was intended to denote. Whataboutism is a term that is meant to denote a debate technique designed to distract from the key issues. One side asks a question, the other refuses to answer and instead says “what about this?” What it isn’t is when you hold up two examples of the same thing and ask, ‘Why are you only outraged about one of these?’ You know, having a consistent moral framework should be desirable but instead as their mind recoils from the cognitive dissonance they say, ‘THIS IS WHATABOUTISM!’ Even dumber than that is making a broad claim that to demand people be morally consistent is some kind of gatekeeping of recreational outrage. No, someone of note really did do that over this topic. Incredible.
Since Carlos has gone, I’ve seen a lot of the same people who wanted that outcome essentially absolving themselves of having played any role in it. “It was the company that wanted him gone,” they rationalize. “What we said had nothing to do with it,” they claim. To believe this is to deny the very clear mechanics of the outrage/atonement cycle, namely that no one cares if the angry mob is made up of a dozen people. Even if you have a legitimate grievance you best have the numbers to make it stick or you can go cry in the corner and get fucked. That’s the message. In this case, enough people with enough reach made enough noise to force the hand of the people residing in the next tier of the hierarchy. It’s proof that the system works. If only you would use it for arranging boycotts of your paymasters.
There’s a Japanese proverb that says “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” and more than anything else, that’s what really is going on here. Carlos had baggage that previously framed him as dislikeable, arguments with people in which, in the heat of the moment, he said nasty things. Even back in his days as a player, he had been on the precipice of expulsion from the scene and when you’ve been around long enough, everyone who remembers these things becomes an enemy waiting in the shadows to assassinate your character once the opportunity presents itself. There was never going to be mercy shown to Carlos and, foolishly believing he might just be untouchable, he presented his detractors with the perfect opportunity.
A measured response would have been the initial apology and suspension, maybe a donation to one of the many fine women’s charities out there that are always in need of support and exposure. Permanent exile — for that is what it will be — is not a good outcome for anybody and it is one that should leave you with questions. Who has done more harm to women in esports? Carlos and the person he was briefly recorded standing next to or Riot Games? Why is Carlos complicit with Tate’s sexism but the industry folk who work for Riot are not complicit with theirs? What is a greater existential threat to our industry? Carlos’s stupid tweet or the demand for institutional fealty that comes with Saudi Arabian money? You all know the answers but who’s going to say them out loud?